Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease characterized by an elevated fasting blood glucose level due to defects in insulin secretion or inability to use insulin. Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) affects 85-90% of all people with diabetes. In T2DM the pancreas produces insulin, but the body’s cells do not respond effectively to the insulin and so do not take up the blood glucose (sugar) and turn it into energy. This results in a build-up of blood sugars! left untreated poor glycaemic control leads to accelerated Cardiovascular, renal and ophthalmic diseases resulting in elevated morbidity and mortality.

Although there is a strong genetic predisposition to developing T2DM, the risk is greatly increased when associated with lifestyle factors such as: High blood pressure, Excess weight especially around the waist, Poor diet and Insufficient physical activity. Studies have shown that the more exercise sessions you do in a week the less likely you are to develop Type 2 Diabetes (1). 

Role of Exercise:

Exercise can play a vital role in the management of Type 2 diabetes. Exercise can;

  • improve the way muscles respond to insulin, which in turn helps regulate blood sugar levels for up to 48hours after exercise!
  • increase glucose uptake by muscles in other ways that dont depend on insulin, which over time lowers the dose of insulin required by the body.
  • improve body composition
  • improve Cardiorespiratroy fitness
  • improve well-being and depression
  • reduce Cardiovascular risk

How and When to Exercise:

current guidelines recommend people with T2DM to accumulate 210min of moderate intensity or 125 min vigorous intensity exercise; Perform at least 3 days per week with no more than 2 consecutive days off in between. This will maximize the acute benefits of exercise, where there is an increase in insulin sensitivity that will last for 48hrs post exercise. Scheduling within this time will maintain the increase over time! 

 We recommend a combination of both aerobic and resistance training (at least twice a week) 

Aerobic exercise will increase energy expenditure and improve cardiorespiratory fitness.  

Resistance training will increase insulin sensitivity and glucose transport.  

Importantly Start where you can! 

While the benefits out way the risks, those with diabetes may have an increased risk of complications and should seek proper guidance prior to starting an exercise program. If you would like assistance in starting or adding to your current exercise program visit our Exercise Physiologist!

  1. Prospective study of risk factors for development of non-insulin dependent diabetes in middle aged British men, BMJ 1995; 310:560
  2. https://exerciseright.com.au/diabetes/